Sunday, September 29, 2013

Girl Talk: Discovering that Being a Girl is a Problem

    I am very fortunate to have grown up in a family that treated me as if they truly believed that I could be anything. I was never pushed to "girl things" or steered away from "boy things."  I was encouraged to try everything that interested me in any area--arts, sports, academics.  I was supported in the things that I self-selected as being "my thing"  (theater, music, outdoorsy things like hiking and camping).   My academic successes were celebrated.  I always had a sizeable fan club in attendance at my school plays, piano recitals, softball games, and soccer games.  When I missed the mark, I wasn't shamed or otherwised punished.  I was razzed good-naturedly for my failings.  There is no getting around being teased in my family.  It's actually a sign of affection. None of this was about my gender, though.

     In fact, I do not remember ever being aware of being expected to fulfill any gender roles.  My one attempt at learning to sew was a disaster that is still joked about today.  My mother, in exasperation at my mess and incometence in culinary efforts as a teenager told me to get out of her kitchen.  Her recommendation, "Marry a chef." (Best advice she ever gave me.)

     I wasn't born with the competitive gene,  and I was clumsy and slow.  In a family of scholar-athletes, it was a source of shame for me that I sucked at sports.  Never for a minute, though, did I think it was because I was female.

     I was fairly aware that being female was something my mother and aunts and their mothers before them made them "less than" in the man's world they were born into.  My mother had to fight to get off of the teller line and into the management training program at the bank.  I realized that it was a major victory when she beat out a male Harvard MBA for a bank manager's position several years later.  What I was completely unaware of was that other girls in my peer group still had to fight the idea that they were less than simply because of their gender.  I was an adult before I realized this.  And it blew my mind.


Saturday, September 28, 2013

Girl Talk: An Introduction

I have started and stopped repeatedly this week to write a post that is only partially formed in my mind.  What started as a goofy bit about being a woman who loves watching sports has somehow become this whole different thing.  See, I have found myself involved in a series of conversations about feminism with different groups of folks with varying perspectives and insights.

There's been the guys I'm in the fantasy baseball and football leagues with.  There's been the twenty-somethings my son hangs out with in my living room, who are complete bananaheads that are trying to figure out how to interact with young women.  There's my smart, strong daughter and her fierce grandmother.   My Other Favorite Nieces and my Cool Cousins have been in the mix, too.  Then there are my brilliant sisterfriends.  Each of them have (mostly unknowingly) forwarded the discussion.  And my mind is a swirl.

I don't know why this has taken up so much of my mental space at this point in time.  I'm grateful for it, though.  I love being intellectually and emotionally challenged.  And I'm confident that this is all leading me somewhere that I'm supposed  to be heading towards.

So far, it seems like I'm going to be putting together a series of posts about my ideas about womanhood.

The only expertise I can claim here is that I was born with the requisite reproductive organs to be deemed female.  Otherwise, I'm just making shit up.  This will be no scholarly work, in case that's what you were expecting.  Mostly, it will be me thinking out loud in print.

You've been forewarned.

Friday, September 20, 2013

Lots to Think About. Not a Lot to Say.

     I'm still in a contemplative mood.  I've got a lot on my mind--processing grief, coping with family struggles, empathy for friends-who-are-family who are coping with their own struggles, work responsibilities, and, and, and...    That's really nothing new, I suppose.  My head is always full to overflowing.  What is new is that I've been rather mum about it all.

     I'm not exactly known for ever being at a loss for words. Yet, here I am.  Apparently, it is noticeable. A dear friend noticed and teased me about it. The Evil Genius noticed and tried to fix it by giving me a very Evil Genius-like list of potential blogpost topics.  (How much do I love this kid?!)  Another of my dearest friends noticed, and has been VERY worried that something must be terribly wrong.

     I'm okay.  Truly I am.  I'm actually in a better place than I have been in for a while.  I'm still just fumbling to find the words to articulate it.  Okay?

To reassure you, here are a few of the small joys I have caught in the past day or so:

  • The cocker spaniel challenged me to a game of tag yesterday morning.  He's adorably frustrating and his evasive maneuvers make me grin like a fool every time.
  • I had a terrific lunch break with one of my sisterfriends this week.  It brightened my spirits and broke up my work day delightfully.
  • I caught up on my filing, so my Cubicle-of-Doom no longer poses an avalanche threat.
  • I finally fit into the shirt that my seamstress friend in Rwanda made for me.
  • The weather was clear enough to be wowed by last night's Harvest Moon.
  • There will be a brand new "Other Favorite Great Niece" in the family imminently.  The niece and nephew in Florida are delivering their first baby today!

Tuesday, September 10, 2013

There is Nothing Truer Than This: You Cannot Be Replaced

     Today, my thoughts are with those who suffer or love someone who suffers from serious depression.  I'm slogging through a challenging time in my life, but I know that it will get better.  I absolutely do. Too many people do not believe this about their own struggles, though.  When the dark descends upon them, they cannot believe that there will ever be any light again.  This is because depression lies.  It lies loud and it is overpowering.  It paralyzes a person in fear and hopelessness.  It makes someone believe that the world would be better without her or without him.  That is the worst of all the lies that are ever told.

     This week is National Suicide Prevention Week and across the country, some truly wonderful organizations are working hard to remind everyone that they are out there all the time, willing and able to help shine a light on someone's darkest days--true life savers like the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline or The Samaritans.

   Last year, my daughter (the smart, brave, strong, and beautiful Thing 1) encouraged me to join her in the To Write Love On Her Arms campaign to promote awareness of life-threatening depression.  This year, the organization is conducting an amazingly powerful campaign  "You Cannot Be Replaced."  Because, where depression lies, the truth is that there is nobody else like you in the world.  You are irreplaceable. You offer the world something unique that nobody else can. As the scripture states, "You are fearfully and wonderfully made."

I cannot be replaced, because:

  •  I am the only one who can who can get Seamus off of the furniture. 
  •  I am the only one can answer the 80's pop culture questions when the Awesome Aunts & Cool Cousins go  to play bar trivia. 
  •  I am the only one who remembers that the Christmas Album doesn't make itself. 
  •  I am the only one who can take in the foster adults and make them part of the family.  
  •  I am the only one in my family who has been to Africa.  Twice.
  •  I am the only one who turn anything into an occasion for a theme party.
  •  I am the only one who can be my mother's daughter. 
  •  I am am the only one who can be Thing 1's, Thing 2's, and the Evil Genius' mother.  

     Consider what it is that makes you irreplaceable.  Then consider sharing your story.  Who knows who it will reach or the impact it will have.  


Wednesday, September 4, 2013

It's New Year's Eve at My House

     Today is the last day of summer vacation for the Evil Genius.  Everyone I know has already sent their kids back to school.  My great nephew in Denver (great because he is my niece's son AND because he is made entirely of awesome) has been back to school for almost a month already.  The niece and nephews (also entirely awesome) in Maine went back last week.  All of my coworkers' children are back to school. Thing 1's Marine started his first college class last night.  Thing 1 starts her final semester as an undergrad today.  The Evil Genius, though, has one more day of freedom.

     He's totally going to waste it.

     If he didn't look just like me, I'd swear this kid got switched in the hospital for someone else's.  Left to his own devices, this boy is going to let the day fritter away (most likely in front of screens, ugh).  Because he is in middle school--7th grade starts tomorrow--I'm not even allowed to make Last Day of Summer Vacation Plans for him.  That is apparently too horrible a fate to comprehend.  So, instead, I gave him a list of chores that he will likely ignore until minutes before I come home from work. Sigh.

     I'm not entirely sure why this bother's me so much.  My Personal Chef tells me I should just let him have a final, lazy day.  It goes against my very nature, though.  I have this compulsive need to celebrate, or at least observe some recognition of transitions.  I have always been like this.  I hadn't yet elevated the "marking a transition with a celebration" to an art, yet, but I always made a fuss.

     When I was the Evil Genius' age, my neighborhood friends and I made a pact to wear summer vacation right out.  On the final day of summer, we were out the door and on our bikes right after breakfast.  We'd be on the run all day, stopping only for a baloney and cheese on white bread sandwich and a popsicle.  We'd build forts in the woods, jump off the rope swing into the lake, hold a kickball tournament, wade through the swamp to get to the giant rock that we'd defy gravity to climb, and  spend all of our loose change on bubble gum and Pixie Stix and Slush Puppies. The really cool kids would stare death in the eye as they skate boarded down The Hill on Tucker Road. This was our last chance to squeeze in summer vacation, man!

     At dusk, though, it was over.  At dusk, we all went home for dinner and we started to count down the new year.  I know the calendar says the year starts for us on January 1, but in reality, this final night of summer vacation before school starts is our New Year's Eve.  So after our final day on bikes/ in the woods/at the ball fields/in the lake we'd all go home and start obsessing over our first-day-of-school-wardrobe selection.  We'd pack and unpack our Trapper Keepers.  We'd call our bestest friend and discuss said wardrobe selections AND where to sit at lunch, crush potentials, rumors we've heard about the new-to-us teachers, discuss strategies for managing the quick change from our cool clothes to our heinous gym uniforms and back again. We'd make resolutions:

  • this year I'll do my homework as soon as I get home from school 
  • this year I'm going to make the starting squad on the team
  • this year I'm going to kiss [name of the unrequited love interest here]
  • this year I'm going to be awesome...


Happy New Year!

Prosperity and Awesomeness for you all!


Tuesday, September 3, 2013

Late in the Game, I'm Starting to Count Joys

     Just before the start of 2013, Ann Voskamp over at  A Holy Experience dared the world to count 1000 gifts--3 gifts that bring you joy a day, every day for the year.  To help folks out, she even created an app and published a journal for tracking the found joys, and sends out a monthly list of prompts.  I just discovered the challenge last night.  So, I am too late to be included in the related contest (one collector will win a new camera!), but I figured I would share and forward the dare onto us all.
     Those of you who know me, have often heard me talk about "catching the joyful moments."  And when things are really bad, I'll encourage you to, "Quick!  List 5 things that don't suck,"  as a reminder that not every moment of your day is ever truly hopeless.  So, this is right up my alley.
      I have a Cool Cousin to thank for introducing me to A Holy Experience.  This past year, Ann Voskamp traveled to Uganda right around the same time I was in Rwanda.   My cousin thought I would appreciate the blogposts about the trip.   I did.  The writing about her experiences was deeply moving.  Her other posts about daily life as a home-schooling, farmer's wife are also moving.   And then I found the dare to Count 1000 Gifts.  I believe I may have found a kindred spirit.  Go meet her for yourself.  And consider taking up her challenge.

     Today's prompt: 3 gifts yellow...

  • The black-eyed susans taking over the corner of my badly neglected perennial bed simply delight me.
  • The way it feels when Thing 1, Thing 2 and the Evil Genius  tease me when I pick yet another shade of yellow to paint some part of the house.  Currently, the exterior, the living room, the hallway, the upstairs hallway, and the upstairs bath are all shades of yellow.  I love that we are a family that laughs together.
  • Brand new yellow crayons (and all the rest of them) symbolize back-to-school for me. It's probably my favorite time of year.

Monday, September 2, 2013

The Fall of Fabulosity

     The Evil Genius and I spent this final weekend of summer vacation up at the lake with my parents.  We had a wonderful, wonderful time in the woods and on the water.  There was hiking and biking.  There was cruising in the Black Pearl for my boy, kayaking for me.  Grampie took the Evil Genius and I out to Steamboat Island to see the remains of a 100-year-old ship wreck.  There was skee ball at the arcade. I visited a dear friend who took me to her "grocery store"--a local farm--and then fed me ice cream for lunch.  (THAT is a good friend!)  The Evil Genius twisted Grampie's arm and went water skiing.
     This morning, we drove for two hours to spend the afternoon with my brother-in-law's clan.  So. Much. Joy.  Nieces, nephews, great-nephews and a great niece.  Too much food.  Fresh lobster. (Did I mention that one of my nephews works a lobster boat off the coast of Maine?) Tickle fights and ping pong and family pictures and sword play (because a pair of great-nephews were pirates for a bit).
     And so the summer comes to an end.  Upon review, my FabFam has managed to cross off a bit over 50% of the items off of the Official Summer of Awesomeness To Do List.  Everyone agrees that the summer was  indeed awesome AND that the OSoATDL was a great idea.  The Evil Genius decided we should just keep going.  "You know, An Awesome Autumn To Do List or something like that."  And so, the Official Fall of Fabulosity To Do List is now accepting submissions.  On the list so far:

*Get passports (for Thing 1, Thing 2 and the Evil Genius--because they'll need them to go to Niagara Falls and to Rwanda).

* Run a 5K (We're planning on doing a Color Run in Providence this October with some of our Cool Cousins.)

*Get our History Geek On--walking the Freedom Trail in Boston and taking the Quincy Adams Presidential Tour.  (The Evil Genius has never done it.  Walking up the stairs of John Adams' house gave me goosebumps the first time I went.  I cannot wait to go with him.)

*Make apple butter.  (The apples on our tree are too ugly to do much of anything else with them!)

*Go away on a Girls' Weekend.  (My sisterfriends suggested this by text while I was stuck in holiday traffic.  I'm all in favor of it.)

*Go to the Big E AND to the Freyburg Fair.  I'm an all-day sucker for a good county fair and these are two of the best going.

How was your summer, friends?  And what are you looking forward to doing this Fall?